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10/28/2009

So Many Homeless People...

...and so many more empty houses. 

   According to the city's numbers, there are at least three times as many recently foreclosed houses in Chicago as there are men, women and children without homes.

  During 2008, the city's Community Development Department reports that 9,947 Chicago houses underwent foreclosure and the vast majority of those homes remain vacant.  During the first six months of 2009, foreclosures were filed against 9,739 properties, and again, the overwhelming majority of those houses remain and will remain unoccupied.  That's nearly 20,000 foreclosures in 18 months, and at this rate, many more to come.

  Mayor Daley held his annual mid-fall news conference on homelessness reporting that Chicago's Plan to End Homelessness is working, but its resources are being pushed to the limit by an economy mired in what Daley called "The Great Recession".  During its most recent "count", the city estimated just over 6000 Chicagoans should be considered homeless.  They include just under 900 people living on the streets with the rest either sleeping in shelters or living day-to-day in interim housing.   While many of those counted as "homeless" (mentally ill, drug addicted) do not have the financial wherewithall or social skills to reclaim a foreclosed house, the comparison of the numbers, homeless vs. empty house, is stunning. 

  So isn't there some way to use the foreclosed housing stock?  Most of it is in very usable condition given the fact the foreclosure crisis only began 18-24 months ago.  Why not offer the houses for rent, or better, allow the foreclosed owners the opportunities to rent the properties until they are resold?  Said Daley, "You should see some of it.  Its amazing how many good structures are out there!".

   City officials say they have pleaded with federal mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to come up with a plan to utilize foreclosed houses the agencies now own that are boarded up, deteriorating and destroying the values of occupied homes on the same block.  '"We've argued with the Federal Government, with Fannie and Freddie", says the Mayor. "There are so many legal complications, its so complex.  If you don't get through that complexity, then basically all this housing, nobody's gonna live in it anymore".

   And if that happens, the "Great Recession" could last a long time in the hardest hit Chicago neighborhoods. 

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